I have both, so I got lotsa info.
They're similar genetically as they both evolved from a mix of the St John's water dog (now extinct) and a setter (though not sure which one). They also share genes with Labs. Flatties predate goldens by about 20 years.
Flatties come in liver and black - like labs - and sometimes gold. Gold is not part of the breed standard - in the old days they were culled for some bizzare reason. Anyway, the story goes that the first breeder of Goldens bought a gold flattie and mixed it with a spaniel (though not sure which one), thereby creating the first Golden. He then used other dogs, including Flatties, in his breeding program - but always retained gold as the dominant gene. During the early days of the golden they were known as flat-coated retriever - golden, before they were acknowledged as a completely separate breed, the golden retriever. Today, if you ever see a breed standard golden that's bred for hunting, you'll notice their coats lie flatter than a lot of other goldens you might see.
Flatties breeding has always been tightly controlled - the original flattie breeder, or at least the guy that first dominanted breeding was the the guy who founded the Kennel Club. This is thought to be one the reasons why goldens became more popular over time - originally flatties dominated on English estates - i.e. because goldens were just easier to come by. Also, due to this tight control flattie breeding stock fell quite low after WWII, so labs were used to help push up the breeding stock numbers.
So with this background, you see big similarities between all 3 breeds: colour: black, liver, gold (of course goldens only come in one colour - but really two, because their is a reddish variety as well, and gold is a disqualifying colour for a flattie -but gold flatties do exist); love of water & web feet; love of retrieving (and chewing!!); all properly trained & socialized dogs should get along well with other dogs because they're bred to work side by side; they're highly trainable, because they're bred to work closely with a hunter; they are super-friendly with people and love kids, because after hunting they would hang closely with the hunter's family (and therefore do not make good guard dogs); high need for exercise and a job to do, because they're bred to work on a hunt for hours; all are bred to retreive and flush water fowl and upland gamebirds and small game.
The flattie has retained more of that setter-like appearance: leaner body, narrower head; flatties are single-coated so shed less; goldens are bred much more frequently and have divided into show/family dog & hunting dog lines, while flatties are still more tightly controlled - meaning they're much harder to find, and flatties still retain their dual purpose nature, i.e. the same dog can both be shown and used on a hunt and almost all flatties you see still reflect the breed standard; as such flatties are generally more "fieldy" i.e. retain those working dog characteristics - they can be a little more stubborn, can scent-track a little more intensely; flatties are big lickers - both people and other dogs; some will argue this next point, but I've talked with others that've had both and I think flatties are little more affectionate and will really show you love - though both breeds are very affectionate dogs; and finally - you'll probably get more comments/questions on a flattie because they are gorgeous, but rare, so not many people know the breed, but everyone knows goldens.
Bottomline: If you have kids (or not), you're active and want an active dog, have friends or kids friends over to your house, you don't mind dogs licking you and want a dog fully intregrated into your household, e.g. it'll be tough to keep them off the furniture because they like to snuggle, then either of these breeds is better than almost any you'll find. My next dog I'll admit, will be a flattie, because shedding is a more manageable and I like the relative uniqueness of the breed (I bet their are 10 goldens under the age of 2 in my neighbourhood). BTW, you don't need to be a hunter to own either breed - but you do need to satisfy that side of them, e.g. lots of off-leash walks/runs, fetch, water-fetch, etc.
· 9 years ago